Before and After Your Lung Transplant Surgery at TGH
When a lung becomes available for your transplant surgery at Tampa General Hospital, the transplant donor coordinator will call you. Because the call can come at any time of the day or night, be prepared to answer your phone. For the same reason, the coordinator needs numbers for your friends or family to ensure that you can be reached promptly. The donor coordinator will determine your current health status to confirm that you are ready for your lung transplant surgery, and give you instructions for coming to the hospital. In anticipation of a lung transplant procedure, you should:
- Keep the coordinator’s name and hospital’s phone number handy.
- Ask about taking your medications and insulin. You may need to stop taking them before surgery.
- Stop consuming all foods and liquid. If you have recently taken insulin, tell your coordinator.
- Pack supplies that you’ll need in the hospital, including your transplant handbook.
- Ensure that your cell phone is near you and fully charged because the coordinator may need to contact you while you’re on the road.
- Make plans to have someone else drive you to the hospital.
The lung transplant surgery will take about four to eight hours, during which our surgical coordinator and operating room staff will keep your family updated on your condition and provide emotional support. Once the surgery is completed, you will be taken to the cardiothoracic intensive care unit (CTICU). You may be slow to wake up after your lung transplant surgery, and you’ll find that there were several tubes inserted into your body, including chest tubes (to drain fluid from your chest), a Foley catheter (to drain urine from your bladder), a nasogastric tube (to keep your stomach empty so nausea isn’t experienced), an endotracheal (breathing) tube, and intravenous (IV) lines (for medicines and fluids and to take blood samples and check fluid pressures in your body). You will be given medication for pain and to help you relax. You will remain in the CTICU following your lung transplant surgery until you are stable and your breathing tube is removed. While you are in the CTICU, only your immediate family will be allowed to visit you during limited visiting hours. Once you can breathe on your own, you will be moved to a private room in the transplant unit. A family member can stay with you, if no medical issues bar it.
Transplant patients are susceptible to infections, so children younger than 12 aren’t allowed to visit the unit, but they can meet with you in an adjacent ward or in the main lobby of the hospital. Following your lung transplant surgery, you will receive daily visits from your surgeons and pulmonary team and have blood taken every day. We will also complete X-rays throughout your recovery period. Your nurses and coordinator will educate you and your support person(s) on the medications that you’ll need, as well as how to eat properly and care for yourself after your lung transplant surgery. You’ll also learn how to keep a transplant log by recording your spirometry values, blood pressure numbers, weight, and blood sugar readings. This log will be important to bring to all your post-surgery clinic visits. Most patients stay in the hospital for seven to 14 days after lung transplant surgery, although you may stay longer depending on your pre-surgical condition. Before discharge, you will undergo a bronchoscopy to check for rejection of your new lung. If the results return without signs of rejection, you can be discharged.
After leaving the hospital, you will need to make regular visits to the TGH Cardiac & Lung Transplant Clinic (located on the third floor of the Harbourside Medical Tower), and you will need to remain in the area for the first two months after surgery.